The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Tuesday announced the launch of a center that will coordinate progressive policy development, messaging and outreach inside and outside Congress.
The center is not yet fully operational, but it starts off with a board of directors that has spent the past four and a half months raising money to fund staff for next year.
The board met its initial fundraising goal of $1.5 million, which will provide for an initial staff of eight to 10 people, according to Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Pocan, a board member.
The board has also begun a search for an executive director and is accepting applications through October. Once an executive director is hired, other center staff will be added, including multiple people to focus on developing and analyzing policy, and on outreach to progressive organizations, as well as a communications director and a development director, Pocan said.
“The goal is to have this organization up and running in January,” the Wisconsin Democrat said.
The center will operate similarly to the Democratic Study Group that Newt Gingrich defunded when he took over as speaker in 1995. The study group operated independently of congressional leadership in its efforts to promote a liberal policy agenda.
The Progressive Caucus wants to leverage the center to build support for progressive policy ideas through coordinated messaging and outreach between lawmakers and outside progressive groups.
“We wanted to look at what we can do to be most effective in creating progressive change in this next Congress,” Pocan said.
The Progressive Caucus is hoping to have a major influence on the Democratic policy agenda for the 116th Congress, which could see their party controlling the House. With Democrats in the majority, Progressive Caucus members are poised to secure 13 committee and dozens of subcommittee chair positions.
The center will allow progressive lawmakers and policy and advocacy groups outside Congress to coordinate strategy and messaging. Sometimes, especially in the past few years, progressive groups have been at odds with Democratic lawmakers in Congress, feeling they haven’t pushed hard enough for certain priorities such as securing a permanent path to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.
“This is a critical piece that I think has been missing,” said Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, another lawmaker serving on the center’s board. “The goal here is to leverage the power of the progressive movement to enact strong progressive legislation and really build our movement for change across the country.”
Jayapal said policy positions that the center will help refine and promote include “Medicare for All, protecting women’s health, developing a demilitarized foreign policy, making college without debt a reality, making sure that we are fostering and advancing workplace democracy and collective bargaining rights, humane immigration reform, gender equality, addressing climate change.”
The center’s mission is especially critical now that Democrats could take control of the House, said Robert Borosage, the board president.
“Democrats are generally united these days about what they are against, personified by who is in the White House and his agenda,” he said. “The CPC’s special mission and that of the CPC Center is to champion the transformative reforms that progressives are for and to develop the analysis and arguments on how to best make our case.”